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Feds Seek Prison For Man Who Taught How To Beat a Polygraph 374

Posted by Soulskill
from the results-unreliable-except-when-we-rely-on-them dept.
George Maschke writes "In a case with serious First Amendment implications, McClatchy reports that federal prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence for Chad Dixon of Indiana, who committed the crime of teaching people how to pass or beat a lie detector test. Some of his students passed polygraphs and went on to be hired by federal agencies. A pleading filed by prosecutors all but admits that polygraph tests can be beaten. The feds have also raided and seized business records from Doug Williams, who has taught many more people how to pass or beat a polygraph over the past 30 years. Williams has not been criminally charged. I'm a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org (we suggest using Tor to access the site) a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to exposing and ending waste, fraud, and abuse associated with the use of lie detectors. We offer a free e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) that explains how to pass a polygraph (whether or not one is telling the truth). We make this information available not to help liars beat the system, but to provide truthful people with a means of protecting themselves against the high risk of a false positive outcome. As McClatchy reported last week, I received suspicious e-mails earlier this year that seemed like an attempted entrapment. Rather than trying to criminalize teaching people how to pass a polygraph, isn't it time our government re-evaluated its reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy?"
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Feds Seek Prison For Man Who Taught How To Beat a Polygraph

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @10:51AM (#44724031)

    That's like going to jail for teaching people where to hit their head to pass a phrenology test...

    • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @10:59AM (#44724087)

      Or for helping people spot the patterns needed to pass an IQ test, &c. &c.

      Psychology is a very young science that nevertheless has ended up managing to dominate way too much human activity. It is embarrassing that over two millennia after the birth of Western civilisation ,we have degenerated to a point where we still believe that simple indicators can determine whether someone will steal, lie, or be just wonderful.

      • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:47AM (#44724383) Journal

        It is embarrassing that over two millennia after the birth of Western civilisation ,we have degenerated to a point where we still believe that simple indicators can determine whether someone will steal, lie, or be just wonderful.

        Yep, the Middle Ages were pretty grim. Nowadays, roughly three millenia after the birth of Western civilization, we're slightly less retarded. But only slightly.

      • by edcheevy (1160545) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @02:26PM (#44725431)
        No psychologist worth their salt puts any stock in polygraphs, it's law enforcement that loves them. Psych 101: a good test should be reliable and valid. Polygraphs do not meet the criteria.
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @03:35PM (#44725807) Journal

        The problem is that LEOs are always looking for "magic bullets" that will make it as easy as "its that guy" but the simple fact is none exist or are likely to ever be found. Look at how many did serious time over "bullet matching" when it turned out that...and the obviousness of this is just insane...that because large scale manufacturing is so standardized that thousands of bullets could have the exact same proportions of ingredients thus making the whole thing a bad joke.

        Sadly even once everybody sees its total bullshit it'll probably take years, maybe decades to get rid of it because its gotten entrenched, just as we are seeing that tasers are anything BUT non lethal but since an entire industry has been built around the taser it'll be hell to get rid of, same here.

        • The problem is that LEOs are always looking for "magic bullets" that will make it as easy as "its that guy"

          True, they are exactly like that. Which is why we should have level-headed GEMINIs and AQUARIANs sorting the true sciences from the mythical stuff.

    • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:14AM (#44724173) Homepage

      It is as if our government has thrown all logic by the wayside and has become a religion unto itself.

      • by interval1066 (668936) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:35AM (#44724313) Homepage Journal
        They appear to have thrown the first amendment out with the trash as well.
      • I'm skeptical that "become" is a word that can be used here. Perhaps for a brief period of time in some countries, governance was dominated by logic rather than pride and delusions, but it wasn't that way always. "USA is the best country in the world!" and "If you question anything the government does, you are as bad as our enemies and are helping them" have been illogical beliefs that have been around since I can remember.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @02:00PM (#44725277) Homepage Journal

        It is as if our government has thrown all logic by the wayside and has become a religion unto itself.

        Not a religion at all. We need to start calling it what it is, a Police State.

        This appears to be the direction that several of the world's biggest and/or most powerful countries are going. The UK is well along the road. The Russians and China never really left.

        The moral differentiation we once had with places like North Korea is quickly being dissolved by a government that is now indistinguishable from the private military/intelligence contractors that do the spying on citizens.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:15AM (#44724187) Homepage

      To me it seems he's being charged with heresy. The fist such charge in over 200 years.

      • If only the Fed. were only as scary as Cardinal Biggles [flixster.com]; "[he] shall be charged on three counts; heresy by thought, heresy by word, heresy by deed and, Uh, FOUR Counts.."
      • by houghi (78078)

        If they water-board him, I am sure he will bring others to light who will be found guilty after the water-boarding or other torture.
        I mean, if you go medieval on him, go all the way.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:43AM (#44724361)

      having 'flunked' a lie detector test many years ago for a stupid shit job at radio shack, where i was 100% truthful, i know from my personal experience they are shit...
      on top of that, a couple of guys who I KNOW were lying, scamming, stealing, doping, snorting, salesdroid types, PASSED their lie detector tests from the same operator, in the same timeframe, for the same shit radio shack job...
      they went on to become managers...

    • If prosecutors found they could more easily get convictions through failing people on phrenology tests, then yeah, that could happen.
    • I'm so sorry you seem to be getting modded "funny" for this. It should be "insightful".

      Why does slashdot think that "funny" isn't worth karma?

      (And when can we turn in our karma for shiny prizes?)

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        I'm so sorry you seem to be getting modded "funny" for this. It should be "insightful".

        Why does slashdot think that "funny" isn't worth karma?

        (And when can we turn in our karma for shiny prizes?)

        You can turn in your Karma by flaming people, which is kind of like a shiny prize

      • Actually, what I'd really like to see is a non-mutually-exclusive mod system. I'd like to mod some posts funny, insightful, informative, overrated flamebait, for example. Or how about off-topic and underrated?
    • I'd say it's more like teaching people how to resist torture, seen as that is a sanctioned US security technique.

      Further, the idea that drug lords can infiltrate federal agencies in the absence of polygraph tests is really scary. That is essentially their point. That means all their investigative powers are useless, and it all boils down to a pseudoscience test.

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @01:08PM (#44724945)

      "That's like going to jail for teaching people where to hit their head to pass a phrenology test..."

      Not really. It would only be like that if phrenology were a tool Government used to coerce and intimidate people.

      OP did not explain an important point that a lot of people here don't get: government knows that polygraphs don't work. But they myth that they DO work is used as a tool to coerce and intimidate people into confessing things they otherwise would not.

      The problem here is that polygraphs many not WORK the way government agencies claim they do. But they are still useful TOOLS to get people to 'fess up. As long as the myth that they actually work is maintained.

      This is just another government attempt to maintain that myth. But it looks like it's being done in a rather criminal fashion.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        Exactly. What sucks though is that you have to answer yes or no to any question they ask. So what if they ask you are you "a homosexual" or "have you cheated on your wife" can you say nevermind or no answer or pass?

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @10:54AM (#44724063)

    The purpose of the First Amendment is to give people the freedom to say as many things as they want as long as nobody listens.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:05AM (#44724111)

    i wonder if they will polygraph him?

    • Re:gee i wonder. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RJFerret (1279530) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @12:30PM (#44724693) Homepage

      He already plead guilty. Ironically the summary lies, he fell for entrapment, providing a lie for an undercover investigator to purportedly get a federal job dishonestly. Wire fraud is in there too. Sorry, I read the article.

      There's nothing first amendment related, you can tell people to befriend the examiner, control their breathing, put antiperspirant on their fingers, and be anxious for early control questions so you seem less anxious for later questions.

      If he'd simply responded, "I can't provide answers you should give" instead of, "tell them X", he'd have been fine.

      I do feel for the poor guy, he's literally poor, had a failing business and was trying to generate side income to support his family/kids by charging people for what is in the wikipedia article on polygraphs, and obvious to anyone who had parents they lied to.

      Actually, it sounds more like they should have hired the guy to help them out.

  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:09AM (#44724137)

    If it is illegal to teach people to avoid a polygraph, what about teaching other skills that can evade police detection. Is teaching encryption illegal? Is discussing mobile phone tracking illegal? Costuming and disguise?

    I think that it only makes sense to criminalize aiding a SPECIFIC crime, not providing tools that could be used to commit a crime

    • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:17AM (#44724211)

      of course. everything you do is illegal. But you can trust us. We will not use it against you.

    • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:25AM (#44724249) Homepage

      Reading the article, I 'think' he was aiding specific people that had committed crimes (gave methodology how to get around what they did), and that is how he was charged. The issue is fed.gov is using this as a platform to give the appearance he was charged just for teaching anti-poly alone to cast a net of FUD around other who do so.

      • Did he have reason to believe that the people he was helping were criminals? Even then its a bit tricky - how clear does the evidence need to be for a person to be guilty of aiding a criminal? Should I refuse to provide services to someone dressed like a gangster because I think that they may have committed a crime?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 31, 2013 @12:57PM (#44724871)

        What next, charging criminal defense attorneys for prepping their clients before they testify? For trying to poison the pool of potential jurists (just like the prosecution does too)?

      • Reading the article, I 'think' he was aiding specific people that had committed crimes (gave methodology how to get around what they did), and that is how he was charged. The issue is fed.gov is using this as a platform to give the appearance he was charged just for teaching anti-poly alone to cast a net of FUD around other who do so.

        I don't think it is the Feds but rather his supporters are spinning it as a first amendment issue. From the articles I read the reason he was charged was he helped people who had stated the intention to use what he taught to commit a crime.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      They are trying to criminalize teaching things, they are saying he knew his clients intended to use the knowledge to defraud the government. In other words exactly what you are arguing for: helping someone to comit a specific crime.

    • If it is illegal to teach people to avoid a polygraph, what about teaching other skills that can evade police detection. Is teaching encryption illegal? Is discussing mobile phone tracking illegal? Costuming and disguise?

      I think that it only makes sense to criminalize aiding a SPECIFIC crime, not providing tools that could be used to commit a crime

      According to TFA he didn't get arrested for teaching people how to beat a polygraph, he got done for telling people to conceal the fact that they had received such training when applying for government jobs:

      According to prosecutors, Dixon taught seven federal law enforcement applicants and two government contractors, including one who had a security clearance with an unnamed intelligence agency.

      Personally I think that polygraph testing is junk-sicence and that if even state-of-the-art polygraphs can be beat

    • Seriously, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. I have told everyone who will listen over the years that America is systematically removing our rights..
      The fact is, most people just do not care. They have an iPhone and the rest is icing on the iCake.
      You hear it all the time from the young crowd. I don't care, I have nothing to hide.
      Not to mentions the "they hate our freedom" morons who say, if you don't like, leave.
      Well, I did leave. 6 years ago to a country that is, ironically much more free t

      • My experience has been similar since I left the States 11 years ago, first in Australia and now in Sweden.

        It would take a -lot- of systemic changes in the US before I'd consider going back there to live.

    • by Livius (318358)

      I would assume it's equally illegal to teach people to follow the law (thereby unfairly depriving the prison-industrial complex of revenue).

  • by Stephan Schulz (948) <schulz@informatik.tu-muenchen.de> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:10AM (#44724143) Homepage
    This is really surprising and depressing to me. I don't even see the crime. Since when is it generally illegal to lie, or to lie well? What's next - imprison people who teach martial arts? Or shooting? Or driving (think getaway cars)? Or better, people who teach writing (which can be used for teaching nearly anything)! Down with knowledge! Bring back trial by fire!
    • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:31AM (#44724287) Homepage

      I appears he gave a few specific people methods on how to avoid the feds on specific (federal) crimes they had committed, that in itself could be (and was) considered aiding.

      The prosecution is using it as a religious platform for their pseudoscience saying that any negative speak of their golden cow (polygraph tests) is an affront to god and country.

      Essentially the government is trying to frame the issue that anyone that does anti-poly is a child molesting terrorist so they can control the discussion and then control debate on they laws surrounding it.

  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:11AM (#44724153) Homepage

    ... that there's no such thing as a working lie detector.

    Surely you're not trying to tell us that there's some government somewhere that believes otherwise and actually uses the things??

    • It doesn't have to work to be useful. But it's only useful so long as people believe it works.
      • It doesn't have to work to be useful. But it's only useful so long as people believe it works.

        Yep, just look at the NSA. Their internal auditing caught few, if any, of their employees doing LOVEINT [washingtonpost.com] it was only because the suckers believed in the lie detector's abilities that they confessed.

  • Lies! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mashdar (876825) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:11AM (#44724157)

    All lies!

  • Witchcraft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JThaddeus (531998) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:11AM (#44724159)
    "Polygraph tests are 20th-century witchcraft." --Senator Sam Ervin
  • conspiracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nten (709128) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:12AM (#44724161)

    Is this the same guy that was on /. a few weeks ago because he taught undercover agents who *told* him they were planning to commit a crime with the information he gave them? A /. lawyer indicated that helping someone who told you they were going to commit a crime, is a crime. That makes sense to me. If I'm driving my taxi and some pleasant old lady gets in and asks to be driven to the bank so she can rob it, I'm going to get out of the car and call the police, not drive her to the bank. Does that count as a car analogy?

    • Why would you believe anything someone says who you have JUST taught how to lie without the possibility of being detected?

  • Coming soon in a related story a man has been charged for telling people not to look up at security cameras.
  • by richieb (3277) <richieb.gmail@com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:17AM (#44724199) Homepage Journal
  • by JThaddeus (531998) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:23AM (#44724239)

    Polygraphs are one reason I left classified work for greener pastures. I believe they are nearly worthless, used just as much to harass as anything else.

    In my last classified job, my employer hired a new security officer. After several months on the job she was sent for her polygraph. She returned the same day, the test unadministered because she had a heart problem. The problem was manageable, but it made it impossible for an "accurate" test. Despite this she remained in her job. With access to far more material than myself and others--sensitive material covering many programs--she was excused. Obviously the intelligence community doesn't believe in polygraphs either. I'm glad to be out of that world.

  • Intimidation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GodGell (897123) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:25AM (#44724251) Homepage

    As has been discussed earlier, a polygraph test is a tool in the same toolkit as the War o(n|f) Terror and the TSA security theatre. Its effectiveness comes from nothing but the intimidation factor - if the belief that your lies will be "scientifically" detected persists, you can get the victim to blurt out all his secrets by simply telling them that you "know" they're lying. They will feel like they've lost even the privacy of their own thoughts, and with that predicament it can seem pretty futile to resist giving in.

    That psychological end state is pretty much what torturing during interrogations used to accomplish, until they realized that people will say anything they think their captors want to hear. With this technique that issue is solved, since the victim believes their captors will know whether he's telling the truth.

    Obviously, this means that the actual effectiveness of lie detectors must be made, and kept, a widely-believed "fact", and people who express doubts (or provide proof) must be discredited. After all, they were trying to cheat the Establishment, so they must be evil, immoral, scheming criminals who just lie for personal gain.

  • War on Information (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:36AM (#44724319)
    That's what this really is.

    Before the Internet, information was whatever was decided the they'd would give to the public to appease us. It was all carefully planned, controlled and manipulated to advance their agenda. Now, we're able to seek out and share information for ourselves at speeds never before possible.

    The will of the people is quite demonstrably dissemination. It's not that they ever gave two shits about the will of the public, but they're no longer able to manipulate the flow of information to make it look like they do.
  • Junk science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:39AM (#44724337)

    The scientific community needs to rally to his cause. Polygraphs are junk science and haven't been admissible to a court of law in many years. Teaching someone how to beat a Polygraph is no more morally wrong than teaching someone how to beat any other form of junk science. Science should be revered for what it is, and attempts to pass junk off should be demonized. What's next, jailing someone for teaching you how to fool an Astrologist?

    I have no problem with the government conducting proper background checks (ala Snowden etc), but relying on junk science like the polygraph hasn't helped them on actual real spies like Ames etc..

    • by Livius (318358)

      Probably someone will think this means disproving creationism should also be illegal...

  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:53AM (#44724433)

    We make this information available not to help liars beat the system, but to provide truthful people with a means of protecting themselves against the high risk of a false positive outcome.

    Translation: please don't arrest us for exercising our First Amendment rights.

  • Would find the defendant not guilty (despite the guilty plea), and jail the prosecutor for contempt.
  • How about we charge the federal prosecutors with intent to deceive.

    • I believe they have conspiracy laws on the books in regards to aiding applicants to certain federal jobs CHEAT the process; which includes helping people cheat the FBI entrance exam or gaming the polygraph or other aspects of the process. Probably fits under the rather broad laws on fraud as well (which still haven't been applied to the credit agencies that caused the depression.)

  • The Good Guys/Gals don't have any better way of finding out who the bad guys/gals are?

    Ya, right.
  • They must be insane. Am I being punked? I am, aren't I?

    The test has been establish as something of an illusion for some time....nothing more than a sleight of hand, a parlor trick, which fails as often as it succeeds.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @12:31PM (#44724705) Homepage

    It's the one-way mirror in the room where the test is being administered.

    I've been through a polygraph for something *very* serious. Some of our crypto just went "*poof*", and everyone was quite concerned. Understandably, so, too! Crypto is *not* supposed to just go "*poof*".

    We were all asked if we wanted to take a polygraph, and I gladly volunteered, since it really did just vanish. (We later determined that the tape in question had been included in the daily destruction by mistake.) But even volunteering for it, a polygraph is a scary thing if you know nothing about it.

    So I did my research. And yes, those websites were all visited and read, in detail. During the test, I tried some of the techniques that were taught, and sure enough, they work! You can make that machine sing "Bad Romance" as good as Lady Gaga. I thought it was kinda fun, actually?

    But see, the machine was just to butter you up. If you were up to no good, the machine would make you nervous, even if you DO know how to manipulate it. And in the end, it doesn't matter.

    There's a one-way mirror, and behind that mirror is a team of 3-4 people who are all very good at reading human beings. And they have thermographic cameras that measure your facial temperature to help them in reading those who are good at controlling their body language.

    At the end of the day, a polygraph is just a tool that makes someone's job that much easier. It's just one tool in a chest of many, because no single tool alone is enough to get to the truth of the matter.

    My own investigation was with NIS, who are very good at what they do, and very professional. They were after the truth, not a conviction. So I have no complaints about how *I* was treated. But if someone is looking for a victim, then having this information just might save your life.

  • by laura20 (21566) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @01:20PM (#44725015) Homepage

    He's not going to jail for teaching people how to beat polygraph; he's going to jail for conspiring to defraud. There are any number of entirely legal actions you can take that become illegal when you use them to commit crimes. Want to do sleight of hand? Lovely. Want to use sleight of hand to defraud someone? A crime. And yes, teaching someone sleight of hand for the _specific purpose of defrauding people_ becomes conspiracy to commit fraud.

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @01:35PM (#44725113)

    Lie detectors have the inherent problem in that they can be duped by one who has been schooled to do so. But there is one science that is 100% accurate and relies solely on something that the subject cannot hide: Their skull! Using the science of Phrenology, a trained scientist, a scientist, mind you, not simply some quack wearing a tie, can measure the subject's skull in detail and provide a 100% accurate assessment of the subject's reliability, honesty, intelligence, and propensity to commit crimes or to engage in perverse behaviours, as well as many more important traits that one must consider when entrusting an employee or government official charged with protecting our families and making our nation safe!

    Be safe! Rely on Phrenology!

  • The actual point of science is to properly point out both false positives and false negatives of any test so we can get to actual truth if possible by another method.

    To be banned or imprisoned for pointing out the failure of science is deeply troubling for a country founded on liberty & freedom.

  • Not withstanding the obvious " witch trial " jokes that should follow here, TFA states charges of ... “obstruction of an agency proceeding” charge, ... and ... a [wire fraud] “scheme” that helped applicants get jobs by making “false and fraudulent statements.” Dixon could have faced up to five years in prison for the obstruction charge and up to 20 years for the wire fraud charge. If prosecutors can make these charges stand with a jury, I have 99 Senators ( NJ is short
  • I find this funny, since polygraph test results aren't even admissible in court in many states In fact, the U.S. supreme court itself has discouraged the admission of polygraph "evidence" in court cases [typepad.com]. I would think that fact by itself would put a big hole in the feds ability to prosecute this guy.

  • I'm waiting for the day when truth content can be determined by a quick remote neural scan, integrated into a variety of appliances. This is one of the premises of the anime Psycho-Pass. It would also cut down on gun crime, since guns, like in the show, would only fire when pointed at one who has committed a crime, or is psychologically on the verge of committing one.

  • I dunno about this. I read part of the indictment, He isn't being prosecuted for disseminating information, which would be problematical. He's being charged with knowingly assisting people in providing false information to the authorities, approx. hard to see how this is an example of an overreaching Federal govt since there are tons of things you could do to be charged with that crime, if it is indeed a crime.

    First , is it a crime to attempt to device a lie detector test and if not, to otherwise provide f

  • Bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @04:04PM (#44725949)

    The man isn't being prosecuted for teaching somebody to beat the lie detector test. The man is being prosecuted for ENCOURAGING a person to lie to the person giving the government job lie detector test.

    Lying in an application for employment with the government is a crime. Encouraging that lying makes the person doing the encouraging an accomplice.

    If you want to stay on the right side of the law, teach people the theory and practice of beating the lie detector test, but throw them right out of your office the very second they start to talk about any particular lie detector test. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    Learn from the hydroponic gardening stores!

  • One who can read, one who can count, one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

    With people like this in power, the US's scientific and engineering dominance will remain unstoppable!

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